The L.A. Times published a story Wednesday about Mammoth’s proposal to lay off 7 out of its 17 sworn police officers, as part of its proposed austerity measures to pay the airport litiogation settlement. The story’s contents drew major concern from the Mammoth Lakes Police Department and the Mammoth Lakes Police Officers Association (MLPOA).
“The town should worry about that. If people don’t feel safe they are not going to come to a place that depends on tourism for survival,” MLPOA President Sgt. Paul Robles told the LA Times.
The town is already developing strategies to mitigate the loss of sworn officers with volunteers and a police reserve program, according to Mammoth Assistant Town Manager Marianna Marysheva-Martinez, which the LA Times quoted from a prepared statement. MLPD Chief Dan Watson said Thursday he hasn’t talked with Martinez, but is preparing a detailed report that will be part of the agenda bill during next Thursday’s Town Council meeting.
“I like reserves, I like volunteer programs,” he told The Sheet. “They are something we can work toward expanding on long term, but volunteers won’t replace the loss of 7 sworn officers. Volunteer programs take years [to develop], and volunteers are limited in what they can do. They don’t have peace officer powers, can’t arrest and aren’t armed, among other drawbacks. They could help with non-sworn admin duties, but statistically speaking it takes eight volunteers to offset one sworn officer.”
Watson went on to say that, given Mammoth’s population base and the absence of a nearby training academy, the resource pool for qualified candidates is limited. Cerro Coso is currently conducting a Level 3 [the most basic] course, but they shouldn’t be counted on as a significant supplementary force,” he said.
The Town Council is expected to vote Dec. 5 on a proposed restructuring plan that includes the proposed cuts. Outsourcing part of the MLPD to the Mono County Sheriff’s Department has been mentioned in community conversations, but has yet to be brought up as part of the Town’s restructuring discussions with the public. Mono County Sheriff Rick Scholl reportedly said the Town has not spoken with him about the possibility of Mono County being contracted to help fill in some of the gaps.